NOTE: This guest post was written by Andrew Berry. Andrew is a 2014 graduate of the School of Diplomacy. A former research assistant at the school, he has assisted on Dr. Edwards’ work on trade policy surveillance and served as an editor for Dr. Zheng Wang’s book, Never Forget National Humiliation. His interests include democracy promotion, foreign aid policies, and environmental sustainability.
One month ago, the heads of state for the Group of 77 (G77) countries and China met in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for a summit commemorating the organization’s founding 50 years prior. Originally founded as a forum providing developing states with a voice in the United Nations General Assembly, it has since evolved into the voice of South-South cooperation. With this recent summit, the leaders of the G77 countries and China were able to frame the origins of the association alongside the challenges of the future, and the most equitable and coherent way to address these issues. These are some of the major focal points of the Declaration of Santa Cruz.
1) Sovereignty, Surveillance, and the Media
While the G77 countries and China have both individually fought for the sovereign rights of all countries, this declaration relates the pro-sovereignty arguments of yesteryear with the emerging technologies of today. Issues of global surveillance were discussed, with the group calling for a new mechanism to review surveillance practices in accordance with international human rights law; this is a clear rebuke of the United States after the revelation of its extensive global wiretapping networks.
Additionally, while the declaration encourages tech transfer as a means to facilitate development and improve the lives of the world’s population, the declaration strongly voices its concern that new technologies, especially communications, will be used to hinder sovereignty. Calling to mind the conflicts between China and Western corporations such as Google and Facebook, this was a sharp denouncement of media and social networks that could be used to disseminate distorted information about G77 countries. In particular, democracy and human rights are expressly mentioned, as Western media is criticized for its coverage of political participation in many developing states.
2) No ‘One-size-fits-all’ Approach to Sustainable Development
Coinciding with the previous critique was the idea that development agencies implement policies on a one-size-fits-all approach. With the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals drawing ever-closer and the development of various successor programs such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the declaration suggested that while these are the goals that should guide humanity in the future, how to realize this agenda must be determined by individual states and their own national interests.
In following the Declaration on the Right to Development, which stipulates that all nations and individuals be given an equal opportunity to the inalienable right of development, the Santa Cruz declaration calls for improved funding and strategic policies from the West. Since development should be a country-specific process, conditionalities should be removed from all forms of overseas development assistance as a way to preserve freedom of choice. The G77 leaders call for this by rejecting many types of mitigation efforts for the climate change, seeking instead policies of resilience and adaptation. Due to the historical responsibility of the West in climate change, this is a justifiable position.
3) Inequality in the Global Economic System
Throughout the entirety of the document, attention was raised on the inequitable global economic system and the adverse effects it has had on the developing world. To counter this, the group argued for a revamp of several major aspects of the global economic system including a debt resolution mechanism and improved debt payment processes considering actual paying capacity. With this, countries would be able to fulfill the MDGs and develop sustainably while still paying off debt.
The biggest critiques of the global financial architecture focused on the Bretton Woods institutions. The leaders present at the summit called for the democratic deficit within both the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to be fixed by including developing countries in the decision-making process on how loans are allotted. This could be done by giving these countries greater voting rights within the system and by urgently completing the 2010 IMF quota formula reform to reflect their improved weight in the global economy. Reform proponents certainly harken back to the sovereignty argument that has always been at the forefront of the conflicts between the developing and developed world. It stands to reason that having a greater say in the decision-making process may end the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach mentioned above, while still effectively meeting the important goals.
4) Respect for Indigenous Knowledge and Protection of Indigenous Peoples
While the declaration went into full detail about methods of protection for local communities and agricultural families as a way of furthering resilience, it is interesting to note that particular attention is paid to the plight of indigenous peoples facing the pressures of globalization and development. Since many G77 countries have such communities, from the Tupi of Brazil to the different groupings of Papua New Guinea, it is unsurprising that this is mentioned; however, that does not make it any less important. They note the value that can be derived from the proven indigenous traditions of agriculture and forestry management that can be used to counter climate change effects, biodiversity loss, and food insecurity.
Regarding both personal freedom and state sovereignty, the declaration stressed the inherent right of indigenous people to choose preservation of their lifestyle or integration into national society, as well as the responsibility of the state to protect these endangered cultures. With the entrenchment of multinational corporations in everyday life in many developing countries, there is also a need for international organizations and states to protect local intellectual property from being patented by forces from the outside. While protection of indigenous cultures and people has been raised before, with the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples already scheduled for October, this issue will be covered on a much more global scale. With the strong guidelines laid out in the Santa Cruz Declaration, this may allow for a firm, binding Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
5) Reinforcement of Existing UN Frameworks
Of additional importance was a push for the world to follow through on existing UN agreements. Developed countries were encouraged to meet their ODA commitments and targets as outlined in the Millennium Declaration, Monterrey Consensus, and the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development. Due to their historical responsibility in facilitating climate change, developed countries were also encouraged to take the lead on the UN Framework for Combating Climate Change. On trade, the G77 called upon developing countries to utilize flexibilities in the TRIPS agreement that would facilitate social development, and encouraged greater involvement in international trade through the Global System of Trade Preferences. While much of these suggestions, and those regarding other agreements mentioned, have always been at the forefront of developing world politics, it is worth pointing out that this declaration has continued in this direction by reinforcing these arguments.